We The Italians | Italian sport: The 5 young Italian stars

Italian sport: The 5 young Italian stars

2020 was a difficult year for everyone and sport is non an exception. Thousands of races and events were cancelled due to the pandemic, including the Olympic Games in Tokyo. But the world of sport did not stop completely and in the last months of this terrible year in Italy five young sports stars raised up and and everyone is talking about them. We the Italians wants to start 2021 by celebrating them

They are Matilde Villa, Benedetta Pilato, Larissa Iapichino, Linda Zingerle and Jannik Sinner: they have in common their young age and their desire to win and amaze the world of sport. But what have the five young athletes done extraordinary during this period?

Let's start with Matilde Villa, who last November, when she was only 15 years old, set a record in basketball that was celebrated around the world. Matilde is a girl from Lissone, in Lombardy, who plays basketball with Costa Masnaga, a Serie A team (the major league of Italian basketball). She was born with the sliced ball in her hand, because even as a child she was always among the strongest players of the team. In November, during the championship match against Sassari, she set the Italian record of points in a match. Her team won 76-57 and she scored 36 points (almost half of the total), 8 rebounds and 4 assists. An incredible performance for her age, but it was not a surprise because Matilde is the best scorer in the Serie A championship with an average of 18.4 points per match. 

Benedetta Pilato is another 15-year-old girl who has set a series of records in swimming, incredible for her age. She was born in Taranto, Apulia, and is a specialist in breaststroke, the most technical style of swimming. In November, in an international competition in Budapest, Hungary, she set three records in less than twenty-four hours. On the first day she won the 50 breaststroke race in 28''86, setting the Italian record (she was the first Italian swimmer in history to go under 29') and the junior world record. The next day, she set the Italian record in the 100-meter breaststroke in 1'03''55. The very young swimmer is a real "baby phenomenon". In 2019, at only 14 years old, she was the youngest Italian to have participated in a World Championship and also the youngest to win a medal (silver in the 50 breaststroke). Not even the greatest Italian swimmer of all time, Federica Pellegrini, had succeeded in this feat at the age of Benedetta.

Larissa Iapichino, 18 years old, born in Borgo San Lorenzo, in the province of Florence, Tuscany, in 2020 has become one of the most famous sportswomen in Italy. Larissa is a long jump champion, a family sport in her case. Her mother Fiona May, born in England but Italian citizen, was the strongest Italian long jumper in history (2 silver medals at the Olympics, 3 world titles and 1 European title). Her father, Gianni Iapichino, was born in Columbus, Ohio, to Italian parents and was a high and long jump athlete. As a child she practiced dance, swimming, artistic gymnastics and only a few years ago she started with athletics. First the sprint, then the long jump like her mother. And she immediately reached the top, winning in 2019 the European Under 20 title and in the same year she made the Italian record (6.64 meters) of two youth categories. The summer of 2020, in Savona, when she was still 17 years old, she set the new Italian Under 20 record with 6.80 meters, the fifth best world performance of the year.

Another star is Linda Zingerle, 18 years old, born in San Candido, in the province of Bolzano, Trentino Alto Adige. She is a biathlon champion and her father Andreas was four times world champion and bronze at the 1988 Calgary Olympics in biathlon. In 2020 Linda won the gold medal in the mixed relay and the silver medal in the mixed single relay at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne in Switzerland, the gold medal in the sprint, the silver medal in the women's relay and the bronze medal in the pursuit at the World Youth Championships in Lenzerheide, in Switzerland too. These are victories that in the history of women's biathlon very few athletes have achieved, so that in November she was elected best young European athlete by the European Olympic Committees.

Also the fifth young champion we are talking about today was born in San Candido, in the province of Bolzano. Jannik Sinner, 19 years old, is a phenomenal tennis player for his age and within a few months he broke several records. At Roland Garros (Paris, France) 2020 he reached the quarter finals, becoming the youngest Italian in history to go that far in the most famous red clay tournament in the world. Later in Sofia, Bulgaria, he won his first ATP tournament of his career, becoming the youngest Italian in history to win an Open-era tournament. His results have taken him to 37th place in the international ranking, becoming the best Under 20 tennis player in the world.